Plato’s Republic Books IV-IX: An Analysis Essay

*This is for educational purposes only. All who plagiarise or otherwise attempt to reproduce this content will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. *
This was written for a PHIL2010 class and I didn’t get a 100% on it so if in doubt, please refer back to the original material.

A/N: I originally decided to post these three essays on Outlet while I was writing this essay as the final for my class. I thought about the state of America and I thought about the trending thoughts and concerns of the world and the pushback of these thoughts and concerns. So, please read this essay with those thoughts and concerns in mind. In a lot of ways, Plato has hit the head on a lot of issues in his own way even though Athenian culture and attitude is supposedly far removed from how things are today.

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Socrates’ Tripartite Theory of City and Soul

Reconstruct in your own words the chief arguments by which Socrates justifies the theory of a three-fold soul and city.

++++++Socrates argues for a three-part city and soul in his theory of how justice can be realised. He first builds the city based on the principle that the city takes on the characteristics of its citizens and that since the city is a bigger entity, is easier to spot where justice and other virtues lie (Book 2, 368d-369a). First, the city is founded on the idea that individuals aren’t self-sufficient and therefore need to band together to provide all the goods that one needs to survive, giving rise to the principle of the natural division of labour (Book 2, 369e-370c). These people are the first defined part of the three: the craftsmen. The next group that arises are the guardians who are needed as the city grows and is now in need of military power (Book 2, 372e). Lastly, a third group is created out of the guardians, splitting the guardians into the auxiliaries that make up the armed forces and true guardians that will act as overseers or rulers in the city (Book 3, 412a-e). With these three classes established, we can then start looking at where the virtues of the city lie and most importantly, where justice lies. The virtues are defined as wisdom, courage, temperance and justice (Book 4, 427e). The rulers display wisdom in their ability to use their knowledge to know what is good for both the parts and the whole of the city (Book 4, 428a-429a). Courage is displayed by the auxiliaries being knowing of what to fear and not fear in to preserve through both pain and pleasure to faithfully execute their duty (Book 4, 429a-430c). Moderation is displayed when the citizens of the city submit to the reign of the guardians and this produces harmony within the city between subject and ruler (Book 4, 430c-432a). Lastly, justice can be found where the other virtues are not, revealing itself in each part of the city faithfully carrying out their job and that to do otherwise can be considered to be unjust (Book 4, 432b-434c).

++++++With the city and its virtues fleshed out, we can then move on to the soul. The underlying principle of the division of the parts of the soul lies in the fact that one thing cannot be willing to do or be the opposite relative to the thing in question on the same subject (Book 4, 436b-437a). Therefore, if a soul is displaying opposing desires, then there must be multiple parts to that soul that are generating those independent desires. Socrates then set about defining these parts using an analogy of a thirsty man.

++++++The first part of the soul to be defined is the appetitive part where the man is simply desirous of a drink. There is no reason to it; it does not desire a good drink or a healthy drink, merely a drink (Book 4, 437e) because to want a good drink means that it’s no longer an appetitive desire and requires a reasoning element to know what is good and healthy (Book 4, 438a-e) and therefore all of its desires needs to be unqualified (Book 4, 439b).

++++++This leads us to the second part of the soul, the rational part. With the desire to drink can come with the opposing disinclination to drink (Book 4, 429c). This part uses reason to rein in the desires of the appetite. For example, while the appetite may desire a drink,  reason will stop it from drinking pond water which could have caused harm to the body.

++++++However, reason doesn’t seem to be the only part that has control over the appetite. This can be seen in the fact that having given in to a desire against reason, a person may experience anger for having done so and thus, exposes a third part of the soul that seems to aid reason in controlling the appetite (Book 4, 440a). The third part comes into being with the observation that small children and animals seem to still display some amount of control over their appetites despite not having a fully-formed rational part of their soul. This third part of the soul is the spirited part — an honour-loving part that gets angry when one indulges in one’s unbridled desires. Since the spirit part can exist without the rational part, this means that the two parts are separate despite both of their purposes being to control the appetite (Book 4, 441b).

++++++With all the parts of the soul established, we can begin to apply the virtues to the soul as well. The rational part of the soul would naturally be where wisdom is exhibited by its use of reason to make decisions for the rest of the soul (Book 4, 442c); the spirit would exhibit courage by also preserving through pain and pleasure to know what is worth fearing (Book 4, 442c); moderation can be found when the parts of the soul are in harmony with one another and justice is exhibited when each part is properly performing their role with the proper balance between all three parts (Book 4, 442d). With this, Socrates divides both the city and soul into three parts and is able to draw corresponding parts between them.

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Obstacles to the Realisation of the Just City

Identify the problems that Socrates recognises to jeopardise the realisation of justice in the polis and soul.
Evaluate to what degree Socrates succeeds in showing that justice can be achieved in both polis and the soul.

First Obstacle: Against the Equal Treatment of Men and Women

++++++However, even with the source of justice found in both the city and soul, Socrates’ interlocutors aren’t convinced that a truly just city can exist. The first of three complaints are directed towards the fact that women seem to be given the same responsibilities within the city as the men and they argue that that can’t be so because women are of a different nature than men. They drew particular attention to the fact that men and women in this city were to train together in the typical Greek nude and thought it a ridiculous notion (Book 5, 452b). However, Socrates argues that since only those best at a task can perform that task, this requires that all guardians have the same education ( Book 5, 451e) and since this is good and the proper way to maintain justice in the city, the idea cannot be ridiculous (Book 5, 452d-e). Socrates further supports his position on having women as part of the guardians by likening the situation to one of a bald shoemaker and a long-haired shoemaker. He asks if the presence or absence of hair, in either case, precludes one or the other from having the proper nature to perform the job of shoemaking.

++++++Having established that it is a ridiculous idea, it is agreed that since women do not differ from men in the significant ways that would make one more or less suited to a particular practice, then there is no reason to limit women to or from specific practices (Book 5, 454c-e).  This argument maintains that since the woman, although generally physically weaker than man, is made of the same three parts of the soul and so, is able to have the same natures relevant to the types of jobs that the city needs to sustain itself and therefore, upholds the existence of justice in the city as both men and women are able to perform the job best suited to their nature, including becoming guardians (Book 5, 456d-457b). Therefore, the inclusion of women in the guardians and in all other roles of craft is both plausible and beneficial to the city.

Second Obstacle: Against Families Being Held in Common

++++++The second of the three complaints of the city is directed at the system of common spouses and children within the guardians. Socrates asks for the assumption to be made that the system be considered plausible to allow him to address whether it is beneficial (Book 5, 457e-458b). Having been granted that assumption, Socrates starts with saying that since the men and women would be rooming together, it’s natural that they would have sex with each other. However, if left unregulated, it would harm the city by introducing extraneous loyalties into the guardians so the city should regulate it to achieve maximum benefit (Book 5, 458c-e). Since we would want to produce the best guardians for the next generation, then only the best guardians in the current generation should be allowed to procreate with one another, just like how dogs and livestock are bred for favourable traits (Book 5, 459a-b). This would cause disunity within the guardians as it would be a form of favouritism so they would need to be deceived. They would be told that their right to get married and, by extension, to procreate is determined by lottery. This also allows the city to manage the population so that while the city doesn’t overpopulate, there are also enough people to sustain the city if there was war or some other extraordinary circumstances.

++++++However, the city cannot prevent those seen as possessing not the less than favourable traits from procreating so their children must be disposed of in secret. Since children are held in common where the child doesn’t know who are their parents and vice versa, this is possible to maintain the absolute integrity of the guardians’ offspring (Book 5, 459c-460d). Furthermore, only men and women in their prime years should be allowed to have children sanctioned by the state. Those who procreate outside of these years will also have their children be disposed of. Since familial relations aren’t known, to prevent incest, those of different generations won’t be allowed to marry and procreate (Book 5, 460e-461e).

++++++By demonstrating the way in which common families can be carried out, Socrates can turn to show that it is a beneficial arrangement. The idea behind this arrangement was to bolster unity within the guardians of the city so that their loyalty would be to the city and not to spouses or children. The arrangement would allow the guardians to share a sense of commonality within themselves and all things held in common where pain and pleasure are shared by the whole of the group (Book 5, 461e-462e). The guardians have the most ability to split the city as they are the group with the means and knowledge to wage war. If the guardians are united, then the city is safe from internal dissension and protected from foreign forces (Book 5, 465b). Furthermore, since spouses and children are held in common, each guardian would be inclined to fight hard no matter who they’re next to in battle, not valuing one life over another (Book 5, 466e). This ensures the survival of the city as a cohesive whole and is therefore considered beneficial. It also ensures that the guardians are only focused on their loyalty to the city and performing their duties so an arrangement like this upholds the justice of the city by allowing the guardians to focus only on their job and to perform it at all times as dictated by the natural division of labour.  

++++++However, by bringing in eugenics, he does slightly undermine an idea he introduced previously in his first noble lie: the Myth of Metals (Book 3, 415a). The Myth of Metals posits the idea that all citizens are born with a metal that corresponds with a particular class within the city: bronze and iron for craftsmen, silver for auxiliaries and gold for true guardians. If the idea is that people are naturally born with a certain metal and the metal a person is born with is random, then the fact that the guardians are bred with the result of their offspring having the best metals in mind, then it calls into question whether the “metal” is something inborn and random or something that can be bred. However, on further thought, although there does exist this contradiction, the noble lie is still a lie to fool the general populace so it was never supposed to be taken seriously by the rulers who are imposing these systems and noble lies and because of this, Socrates’ arguments still stand without much opposition.

Third Obstacle: Against the Plausibility of Such a City

++++++With the first two of the three waves of complaints addressed, the last wave of complaints addresses the conception of the just city itself in the form Socrates has built (Book 5, 471c). Socrates then introduces the argument that for such a city to exist, either kings must become philosophers or philosophers must become kings (Book 5, 473c-e). He argues that if rule and philosophy were united, then the just city can exist. To demonstrate that such an arrangement is possible, we would have to first address what it is to be a philosopher (Book 5, 474a-b).

++++++ First, Socrates says that a philosopher, as a lover of wisdom, must love all forms of wisdom and not just towards a specific subject (Book 5, 474c-475e). However, true philosophers are lovers of truth so this directly contradicting the previous claim. Socrates resolves this by pointing out that since truth can only be known when one has grasped the Forms (what it means to be completely Good or Beautiful or Just etc), philosophers only possess true knowledge on all fronts and not just an opinion or belief based on perception about specific subjects when they can grasp “what is completely” (Book 5, 475e-476d). Such philosophers would be virtuous because, above all, their seat of reason is in control over other desires and this results in the philosopher being a just man with the rest of his soul falling into line and by extension, displaying all the other virtues like a city and soul who has all three parts in proper alignment with the rational, aided by the spirit, lording over the appetite. So, by defining philosophers thus, he distinguishes “pseudo-philosophers” that are lovers of sights and sounds from those true philosophers who have grasped the Forms and therefore true knowledge and, possessing the virtues, are then fit to rule (Book 6, 484a-d).

++++++The next problem then is to address how such philosophers should come to rule as Adeimantus points out that the people won’t willingly follow a philosopher-king because the opinion of the people on philosophers are of those who turn their knowledge and abilities to vicious acts, or, for those who remain pure in their craft to be useless to the city, blind to everything but their quest for knowledge (Book 6, 487a-d). Socrates agrees but he posits that the few philosophers who possess a true philosophical nature aren’t nurtured correctly. He claims that if such philosophers were given proper conditions and allowed to learn and grow in such an environment, their natural talents wouldn’t be corrupted to be used in politics or sophistry and they would be willing to take on the mantle of rule (Book 6, 497a-b).

++++++There is still a question of how such an environment would arise as these philosophers can only be reliably be brought about by the very city that they must already rule over. To this, Socrates insists that it is not impossible and it is only the current unfavourable opinion of the people on philosophers that rendered the idea implausible (Book 6, 499a-500e). To make people more accepting of such a ruler as well as making the emergence of true philosophers as rulers, education would be key. The easiest way to do this would be to reach the children of the city young and eliminate the influence of other adults by sending everyone over the age of ten out of the city and educating the remaining children (Book 7, 541a-b) in the arts, dialectics, mathematics and astronomy as well as physical training in a specific order and at certain times in their lives (Book 7, 524d-540c). Of course, only those who have proven themselves to be potential candidates to be rulers are going to go through the full course of such an education and most people won’t be trained in all the aforementioned subjects in full and instead become auxiliaries or craftsmen. With the proposed arrangement of sending all but those who are ten or older out of the city, Socrates’ defence against this third wave ends, having proven that the city as it is described right now is possible and given the arrangements so far made, that they are beneficial.

++++++However, despite the glaring implausibility of a city of children under ten years old, Socrates never addresses this. This proposal creates more problems than it solves. Without the adults in the city, the city cannot sustain itself. If the adults were to be removed outside the city and still somehow be able to carry out their crafts, then it remains to be answered the location and duration. Even with Socrates being able to clear up the first two waves of criticism about the city with relative effectivity, in introducing this last arrangement, he has a glaring implausibility still needing to be accounted for. Without a proper conclusion to this argument, since the existence of the city is precipitated on whether the children can be raised in the way described, the very formation of this city is threatened and the justice that Socrates was trying to create falls short of realisation.

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Democracy: Second Worst

Explain why Socrates considers democracy and the democratic man to be the second worst types of injustice

Note: The word aristocracy is from the Greek roots, aristos, which means excellent, and kratos, rule. Therefore, the word aristocracy as used here refers to a meritocracy where rulers are chosen based on ability.

++++++With the city established so far, we return to the discussion of justice and the forms of injustice that may arise in the different constitutions that may arise in this city. Since the city is a reflection of its citizens, then we can speak about the presence (or lack thereof) of justice in both the man and the city and see which is the most unjust and whether injustice corresponds with happiness or misery (Book 8, 544d-545c). Socrates proposes five different cities, including the current constitution of the just city. One of these constitutions is one of democracy and the corresponding democratic man. Socrates will later claim that this is the second worst type of injustice and therefore, the second unhappiest constitution.

++++++To see why, we will first have to understand what other constitutions there are. The original form is aristocracy where everyone performs the job they are naturally suited for. This is the optimal constitution of a just city and because justice is present in its fullest form, the aristocratic man and the aristocracy are the best. Serving as the basis from which we are going to explore the other less good, less just cities, the other cities will see a deterioration between the balance of the three parts of the city and by extension, to the soul of the individuals who have that constitution and then, we will compare to see who is the happiest (Book 8, 543c-544d).

Three Types of Desires

++++++To do this effectively, we would first have to look at the three different types of desires: the necessary, the unnecessary and the lawless desires. The necessary desires are those that are required to survive and the unnecessary desires are those we can survive without and thus, with proper education, can be conquered (Book 8, 558c-559d), and unlawful desires are those desires without limits and seek to be satisfied at the expense of everything else. We will expand on these desires as they arise in seeing how the city deteriorates from its just form.  

Timocracy

++++++The first sign of this deterioration comes in the form timocracy where the guardians of the city neglected the arts (poetry, music etc.) in their studies and become more warlike and start obsessing over the accumulation of wealth. However, even though their reason is starting to crumble and giving away to their appetite, their spirit keeps their desires in check for the most part and their activities to accumulate wealth are kept secret to maintain their honour. They seek glory in battle and war and this forms competition within the guardians which then breeds dissension within their ranks (Book 8, 545c-549b). The timocratic man is torn between following his aristocratic father, who encourages his use of reason, and his peers, who encourage him to seek honour and recognition (Book 8, 549c-550c). This is one step down from aristocracy because the authority of reason and its aid, spirit, has been weakened by internal dissension and due to this, the appetite is then able to exert more of its influence in its desire for honour and wealth.

Oligarchy

++++++The next constitution to arise is oligarchy where owning a certain amount of property become a requirement to hold office and the guardians’ preoccupation with wealth becomes apparent (Book 8, 550c-551b). The city then becomes divided between the rich and poor. Since the rich are few and the poor are many, they mistrust those who aren’t rich and this will cause them to undermine the power of the auxiliaries for fear that they will be supplanted, weakening the defence of the city and its ability to wage war. In this city, the man’s role in the city isn’t reflective of his nature and his status is purely reflective of his wealth and thus, the people filling certain jobs aren’t adequately doing those jobs and those who should be doing those jobs can’t without sufficient status as it is in the case of rulers. This creates unemployment in the city and gives rise to the drones who are divided between the stingless beggars, and the thieves and other criminals with stings (Book 8, 551b-552e).  

++++++The oligarchic man is characterised by a fear stemming from his timocratic father losing his wealth and status and thus begins obsessively hoarding wealth. However, besides his need for more and more wealth, the rest of his appetite is suppressed because, to satisfy other desires, he would have to sacrifice part of his wealth. In other words, he only indulges in his necessary desires and keeps unnecessary desires in check. This is the next step in the city’s deterioration because appetite is starting to clearly dominate reason but only in one respect. In all other desires, the oligarchic man still has an iron grip. Like how he is unwilling to indulge in his other desires to accumulate the most wealth, the oligarchy tries to weaken the auxiliaries to maintain their authority. Furthermore, like the city, the soul of the oligarchic man is divided into two where his need for money is set against all his other desires (Book 8, 554a-555a). Justice is now severely threatened if not nonexistent in both the city and the soul as people, especially the rulers, aren’t taking up the jobs they’re most suited for and there are those who have no job in the city and the seat of reason/wisdom is no longer the sole ruler of either the city or the soul.

Democracy

++++++Following oligarchy comes democracy which Socrates claimed was the second worst form of the city and soul. Here, the poor of the oligarchic city has risen up in revolution against the ruling rich who, weakened by extreme greed and faulty business practices, lose their status and a government is established where self-rule is practised (Book 8, 555b-557a). In this city, all desires are considered equal and there is no longer a distinction between what is supposed to be the seat of reason (the rulers) and the appetite (the wants of the city). The government no longer pursues what is best for the city but rather, the impulses of the majority and suppresses the minority. Since there is no longer any restriction on the appetite, people do as they wish and everyone is considered equal. Whereas the oligarchic man still had a handle on his unnecessary desires for his quest for wealth, his son, the democratic man, begins to long for the goods that the money could buy to satisfy his unnecessary desires and at the urging of others, gives in to those desires. In time, he moderates his more extreme desires and grows to treat all his desires as equal (Book 8, 557b-558c). In the democratic city, more of the virtues are upturned as temperance no longer exists as the ruled and ruler become one and the same. As education becomes less and less of a priority, wisdom and courage are no longer displayed as the proper knowledge to know the truth or to know what to fear is no longer taught and a similar transformation takes place between the soul of an oligarchic man to a democratic man with the spirit and reason brought down to the same level as the appetite.

Tyranny

++++++This leads to the worst constitution for the city and soul: tyranny. Division is created within the city when those who are trying to acquire wealth and status are accused as being enemies of the people and in response, those people will try to act like oligarchs by suppressing those below them. Out of this struggle, the people will nominate a champion for their cause and this champion will become the tyrant. In the democratic city, the breakup of the three parts of the city becomes the drones, the wealthy and the rest of the common people. The drones, hoping to gain the riches of the wealthy for themselves, will prey on the sensitivities of the masses and orchestrate an uprising using the overwhelming momentum of the masses united under a cause and uses this conflict between the wealthy and the masses to seize power (Book 8, 564b-566d).

++++++A city under a tyrant is always in turmoil as the tyrant endlessly stir up fears that there are enemies to the people to keep the people distracted to consolidate his power and control. He wages wars and tries to eliminate all dissenters and people of wisdom and insight because they threaten his hold on power. Therefore, his citizens have the least freedom and are the least happy. Although he is able to indulge in all his desires, (even those lawless desires that one would act out only in dreams, Book 9, 571a-572b) he is constantly in fear of opposition and assassination, and cannot trust anyone (Book 8, 566d-569c)and so, is the unhappiest (Book 9, 576b-580a). The soul of a tyrannical man is the same. All that rules his soul is his appetite fueled by erotic love. Neither spirit nor reason remains to restrain his desires and all virtues have long since ceased to exist, making him the most unjust of men (Book 9, 572b-576b).

++++++Having seen all five constitutions of the city and soul, we can now look at why democracy and democratic man is second-removed from being the worst constitution. Whereas the democratic man still possesses his reason and spirit in conjunction with his appetite, the tyrant is only aware of his appetite, making democracy above tyranny and therefore not as unjust as the tyrant. It is below the other three constitutions because there is no distinction in the roles between the three parts of the city or the soul as they are considered equal in the name of total freedom, making the democratic city and man more unjust than the previous three constitutions and thus, the second unhappiest (Book 4, 443d).

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Socrates’ Critique of Democracy and Self-Rule

Evaluate Socrates’ critique of democracy and democratic man.
Discuss whether Socrates’ argument concerning self-control in Book IV repudiates self-rule and whether justice can be realized in the soul of each citizen without making each eligible to rule

++++++Besides that, democracy’s concept of self-rule also goes against some of Socrates’ previously proposed truths. Previously, Socrates talked about how the parts of the soul is to be in proper order. He said that there must be a stronger and a weaker part of the soul and a better and worst part of the soul. If the better part is stronger and rules over the worst, then we can say that the person is in control. If the opposite is true, then the person is said to be self-defeated (Book 4, 431a).  In the aristocratic city, only those worthy of ruling and possessing the knowledge to rule are the rulers while the others are subjected to their rule, and therefore the city can be considered to be self-controlled (Book 4, 431b). In the democratic city, uneducated or not properly trained individuals can become the rulers and by representing the democratic spirit of considering all desires equal, will rule according to wherever his impulses take him. This shows that self-rule isn’t a good way to rule a city as it allows the indulgence some of man’s worst impulses and when congregated in greater numbers, causes majority rule to not reflect what is best for the city or even what is good but are rather often random and irrational as pointed out in The Crito.

++++++Lastly, we must discuss what separates a just individual from a ruler. There is more than just the education that has been before mentioned in Book III that separates a just man from one fit to rule, there is also, more importantly, the question of a person’s nature. While an education can heighten one’s natural aptitudes, a person’s nature is inborn and hard to change. Socrates lists several traits that rulers would need to have: having a good memory, a quick learner, personable, and a friend of truth, justice, courage, and moderation ( Book 6, 846e-847a). Furthermore, a ruler would need to be able to grasp the Form of the Good. If the rulers can grasp the Good, then they are then able to grasp the other Forms (Book 6, 504d-505a) just as the Sun provides the light to makes vision possible to perceive the things around us, the Good illuminates the being of the Forms, making them knowable ( Book 6, 507a-509c). Since the knowledge of the Good allows one to reason without having to rely on previous assumptions or their senses, then that means that those who can grasp the Good are able to get at true knowledge and not merely superficial knowledge derived from appearances or formed from deductions. This allowed the rulers to know what is truly good for the city and distinguished them from the auxiliaries or the craftsmen who had a lesser education and less of an inclination towards the seeking of truth or knowledge.

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Works Cited

Plato, and John M. Cooper. Complete Works. Hackett, 2009.

Plato’s Republic Books I-IV: An Analysis Essay

*This is for educational purposes only. All who plagiarise or otherwise attempt to reproduce this content will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. *

This is an essay with multiple prompts which will be separated onto different pages. This was written for a PHIL2010 class and I didn’t get a 100% on it so if in doubt, please refer back to the original material. 

Glaucon’s Account of Justice

Discuss what kind of a good justice is according to Glaucon’s account of its genesis through social contract.

In the Republic, three types of good are described; the good practised for its own sake, the good practised for its consequences and the ultimate good that is practised both for its own sake and for its consequences (Book 1, 357b-d). The discussion of justice starts off with Glaucon’s account of justice where he explains why justice is a necessary good that people only practice begrudgingly for its consequences. First, he establishes that to suffer injustice at the hands of others is an evil that no one is willing to suffer while to commit injustice benefits the unjust. He argues that justice came from the recognition that the gains of committing injustice are far outweighed by the potential losses sustained from being the recipient of others’ unjust acts. Those who’ve been wronged or who fear being wronged then band together to create a compromise that prevents its participants from committing injustices against others but at the same time keeps them safe from receiving injustice (Book 2, 358e). To achieve this end, they make laws and separate those who follow the laws into the just and unjust, thus he concludes that justice is a manmade construct that leads to the least unhappiness for those involved at the cost of maximum happiness (Book 2, 359a). Therefore, no one would willingly bind themselves to such a construct if not for its effects (Book 2, 359b). He follows up by proposing two thought experiments to show that the natural inclination of man is towards injustice. One of the examples he came up with looked at how both the just and unjust would act if consequences were removed for their actions. Both of them would end up committing injustice but while the unjust man would be able to get away with his injustices, the just man would be caught. This shows that humans are naturally inclined to do what is best for themselves and the laws prevent us from carrying out our natural urges so no one will practice justice willingly (Book 2, 359c). Furthermore, a completely just man who is just for its own sake must endure all injustice directed towards him but cannot avenge himself or commit injustices and appear unjust while a completely unjust man will take every plausible opportunity to benefit himself at the expense of others while appearing to be just. Therefore, the completely just man would be deprived of reward while the completely unjust man would appear just while reaping all the rewards. So, according to Glaucon, there is no intrinsic value to practising justice because to lead a just life is always an unhappier life than to have one of injustice so justice is a good that is practised only for its benefits (Book 2, 360e-362c).

September 2018 Quotes of the Month

“The law doesn’t protect people, people protect the law.”

-Tsunemori Akane from Psycho-Pass

 

“Freedom is something that you need to actively acquire. It’s not something that’s given with no strings attached. To be free means to take responsibility, and to prepare yourself for what’s to come.”

– Charles Beams from Eureka Seven

 

Castigation or Correction: The Aftereffect of Our Prisons | A Research Paper

As history has progressed, mankind has had to develop factors that contributed specifically to the functionality of their society. One of the most prominent factors has been the addition of laws which set boundaries for the civilization as a whole. However, when laws are broken there must be some reinforcement that emphasizes the authority of these rules. In the American society, the correctional system is the basis in which individuals are supposed to be “enrolled” in, thus helping them reform their ways and become better contributors to humanity.

However, in this day and age, the American correctional system has become privatized to relieve the pressure on citizen tax dollars. Due to this, the correctional system has been reduced to punishment, isolation and almost indentured servitude instead of the reformation that was originally intended. In addition, when individuals are sent to prison they are left with the reduced ability to be able to receive a legal job. This matter has left a significant amount of minorities, immigrants and otherwise socially handicapped people unemployed, on welfare, and usually ending right back into prison. As a descendant of immigrants and a minority whose lived in areas with a high population of former inmates, this subject is daunting especially to myself. When I consider all of the good people that made mistakes, were forced into situations based on their circumstances or people who were just trying to survive, I can’t imagine how their experiences in prison have not only tainted their perspective on humanity but have also tainted their futures. When a portion of our population has been subjected to this dehumanizing treatment and left with limited options in their progression the question now becomes, to what extent does our present correctional system affect a person’s ability to successfully function in society?

For the sake of this examination, the definition of success will be limited to “maintaining the necessary income to live above the poverty line, while remaining in good legal standing, as well as having the opportunity to advance in life”. While this definition may seem simplistic, difficulties meeting this goal can arise for even the most educated and able individuals. Thus when persons of a social status that are already less likely to successfully go through the system, their results are drastically different. In all actuality, the American correctional system inhibits the progression of an individual’s functionality in society due to the fact that not only is the person in question now limited in their possible economic advance but also in their social standing and experiences. In order to examine the validity of my thesis, I will analyze statistics provided by the American government in regards to the demographics of those who have been previously incarcerated. In addition to this, I will break down personal accounts from people who have been in prison as well as those who haven’t to compare the social experiences of both groups. By doing this I will be able to correlate the evidence that our government has gathered to the events that people have encountered.

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There was a time when treadmills were used as punishment in prisons.

In order to discuss how the prison system has deviated from its original intentions, it is imperative that I give background on the origins of said system. Before the 18th century there wasn’t a well-defined prison system, instead, people who were accused of committing crimes would be held in crude dungeons and held in torturous restraints. However, these areas weren’t for long-term holding, these caverns were set aside for temporary holding until the accused would be either acquitted of their crime or found guilty. During the colonial times in America, a guilty verdict could be punished by ranges of castigation. From public humiliation to branding, to lashings and hangings. However, it was very rare for a person to be held as a form of punishment. Nevertheless, as time progressed these methods of penalization became seen as barbaric and in the 1800’s a new form of criminal “reformation” was introduced. A grander reflection of our implementation of solitary confinement, the prisoners of the 1800’s were sent to factories where they silently reflected on their sins. Communication with other prisoners was strictly forbidden and being caught in the action would result in additional punishment. This method of rehabilitation was favored because not only was it responsible for the breakdown of an individual’s spirit, it would give way to mental illnesses that incapacitated the criminal. Furthermore, inmates were subject to strenuous labor without pay or concern for their safety. During this time, obedience and hard work were the markers of criminal rehabilitation although during this time reformation of the prison system had begun in Pennsylvania which would influence the impending 1900’s.

Two of the major pioneers in the improvement of the correctional system during this time were Dorothea Dix and Enoch C. Wines. Dorothea Dix strove for the refinement of the way mentally ill people were treated in prison. This eventually led to the separation of the mentally ill into asylums where they could be educated and receive treatment. Enoch Wines focused on the betterment of the correctional system for all; Wine’s conclusion that the current prison methods were actually severely ineffective led to the implementation of new policies regarding sanitary conditions, women’s participation and education in prison. As the progressive era emerged these two reformers were given greater consideration and eventually the 1900’s became the era of prison restoration. Progressives shifted their focus from hard punishment and social isolation to psychological methods of rehabilitation. During this time prisoners were sentenced to indefinite sentences and were released when they could prove that had been purged of the criminal tendencies. This method would lead to our contemporary version of probation and parole. With this major revolution, the correctional system was set to rehabilitate its inmates and lead to the betterment of society’s “deviants”.

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However, during the late 20th century American encountered a “prison boom”, a massive increase in the prison population (Porter, Lauren). This explosion in the number of people under the guide of the correctional system was due to the expansion of the American law enforcement agencies. Prison sentences for minor crimes were being increased and new laws were instituted leading to an increase of things considered illegal. Eventually, the state budgets allocated to prison growth were drained and politicians were floundering for a way to make good on their promises to crack down on crime. In order to supplement this growing population, the US prison system began to privatize their jails to exclusive third-parties. The first third-party company to profitize the prison system was the Corrections Corporation of America. This method of prison expansion has been a major source of controversy due to the fact that these corporations run at least 10% of America’s prison for profit (Pauly, Madison). In essence, the issue lies with the fact that when a company is running for profit, the end goal is money, whereas the end goal of the correctional system should be correction of society’s deviants. In all actuality, these groups aren’t focused on educating or reforming our criminals, instead, they stand to gain monetary awards when the prison population is increased.

Now with a foundation established on the previous ineffectiveness of the correctional system and a brief summary on the history of America’s most controversial prison system, I can examine the effects our contemporary system has on the individuals within it. Now the validity of my conclusion is based on my ability to prove that the correctional system hinders two factors that contribute to an individual’s ability to succeed in society: the economic and social advancement of an individual. The economic aspects that contribute to a person success in America include employment and financial stability. The social factors that contribute to a person’s success include location and education. In order to defend my thesis, I will argue that our current correctional system 1) causes former inmates to lose job opportunities, 2)lowers the average income of former inmates, 3)contributes to the likelihood of former prisoners staying in a bad environment, and 4) lowers the chances of a former prisoner being educated.
To begin with, I’d like to review the statistical data on employment after prison. As of 2008, the percent of former inmates that was unable to meet income through employment was 70% (Vischer, Christy), the methods of income varied over means such as governmental assistance, assistance from friends and family as well as informal work coming in at the top 3.

As the prison population grew and political tension in America rose during the election of Obama, the number of post-inmates unemployed increased to 75% in 2013, after Obama’s re-election (Gramlich, John). As stated by a director of Columbia Law School’s department of Prisoners and Families clinic, “You can almost look at incarceration as a contagious disease,” Genty said. “Once somebody has that taint, they are just looked at differently. It’s not even at the rational level.” This bias can be found in various media, including news outlets, and it is only worsening the stigmas associated with former inmates. For instance, on a popular show named “Everybody Hates Chris” one character is often shown to be stealing and eventually being detained and sent to jail. Even though this character has been previously incarcerated, he maintains his socially deviant behavior, which induces the thought that he isn’t capable of rehabilitation. In other instances, such as on “Boyz n the Hood”, former convicts are stereotyped as being violent, stubborn and overall malicious. Despite 59% of convictions being nonviolent, this image of former inmates is portrayed in pop culture and employers fear ‘dangerous felons’ ruining their business reputations (Neyfakh, Leon). Despite most media being fictional, many people are conditioned to understand society- and specific factions- by what they see on television.

In this case, employers see that this individual has repeatedly gone through the correctional system and yet continues their crimes, which makes an employer not want to hire them. In reality, news outlets also perpetrate these thoughts. When someone is suspected of committing a crime one of the first things the media will examine is their criminal history. To employers this seems correlative, a former inmate or convict is suspected of committing another wrongdoing, thus they will continue to commit more crimes (Vega, Tanzana). A former inmate even says that “[he felt] his job applications were going into a “black hole.” This is due to the fact that more in today’s society, jobs are beginning to evaluate the criminal history of prospective employees. In more cases than some, employers aren’t even looking at what the crime was, instead, simply having a conviction makes you a less likely candidate.
When defining success, I used the poverty line as a marker of indication. To be precise in my analysis, the poverty line- as determined by the Federal Government- is $12,060 for an individual (healthcare.gov). It can be assumed based on the analysis of post-incarceration employment rates that former prisoners have a lower average income. A mean decrease of 11% was found between the annual income of post-incarcerated individuals as opposed to their income before incarceration (Freudenberg, Nicholas). However, many other circumstances influence the low income of former inmates. To begin with, many convicts are released early but have to pay monthly fees for parole or probation. On the average, convicts are paying $30-$80 a month, not including court fees or the costs of drug testing and driving for parole check-ups (Schou, Solvej). When individuals aren’t able to pay their parole costs, they are subject to several different consequences. The most frequent “alternatives” are community service and revocation of license until payment can be made. Yet, since the majority of inmates were in poverty before they were convicted, it is likely they will be even more impoverished and lack the resources, such as a car or work, to meet their alternatives.

In addition, like our current correctional facility, probation is also being privatized. Due to this privatization, the focus becomes less on rehabilitation and more on increasing revenue. Revenue that is generated by the recidivism, the relapse of committing crimes, of former inmates. However, this is simply the surface of how probation plays a role in lowering the income of convicts. It is human nature to become concerned with the power and control that one possesses over the environment and in the relationship between probation officer and parolee, the results aren’t exclusive. On an episode of Law and Order: SVU, the interactions between several probation officers and their parolees are dramatized. Probation officers are seen being threatening, aggressive and extorting money from former convicts with threats of falsifying parole violations. However, in real life, cases of probational system corruption are beginning to crop up more frequently. Especially in well-populated cities, where criminal activities occur more, probational misconduct is rampant and has severe consequences for convicts trying to make a new life for themselves. For instance, in the city of Nashville, 2015 was the year many parolees lost their cars, gave up their disability checks, or even foreclosed on their homes(Schou, Solvej). These individuals found themselves being threatened with excessive jail time or increased probation fees if they couldn’t pay their probation officer. In conducting an interview with an individual recently released from prison, Mark* shared his concerns of the correctional system in regards to probation. “Paying probation fees may seem like small costs for your freedom but I have a kid. Providing for a baby and yourself, the pressure is high, man. I’ve thought of selling dope a thousand times since I’ve been out. If I can’t pay probation, I’m back in jail anyway.” (personal communication, [1]2017). This was one of the most emotional accounts, on my behalf, that I received because Mark is only 19. To consider the fact that someone so young is already entrapped in the vicious cycle of crime is daunting. The system of probation is supposed to be a transition between prison and society, yet, it seems to be an increasingly cyclical route of recidivism and less income.

“Section 8 isn’t available to anyone who has a criminal record. Whether or not you serve jail time, you are immediately evicted from your apartment and there aren’t many other places you can go,” said an individual who had her housing assistance revoked. The options left are expensive and require extensive application fees and security deposits. Thus, even if the individual was able to maintain their finances, money would be spent primarily on housing. Many convicts will then find themselves regressing into criminal acts due to lack of support from their community. Due to the lack of community resources, these areas run rampant with criminals and, in the underground world, there is always room for another drug dealer or gang member. Thus, when inmates are released there is an immediate pressure to recede into their old lives, in addition to defensive measures, but also in order to provide for themselves.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela.

This quote has increased in validity since the speaker first said it. As the United States continues to grow and innovate, education becomes more and more a separation between poverty and stability, success and failure. Many inmates, depending on the severity of their crime, have access to a high school education within prison walls. However, education isn’t limited to the simplicity of a high school diploma. Instead many employers look towards college degrees as a symbol of reputability and intelligence. Yet, a very few have access to degree-granting courses and those that do are at risk of losing them due to the high cost of these programs. This is despite the fact that by offering college courses, some correctional facilities have seen their recidivism rate drop by 16% (Westervilt, Eric). Inmates have been determined as being 42% more likely not to recede back to prison. Withholding economical reasons, a college education benefits society as a whole by increasing the rehabilitation factor of prison. Unfortunately, many prisons don’t offer these initiatives and instead, post-prison educational pursuits are harder due to various factors. The most significant reason is that former convicts lack access to basic educational programs. In a growing society of immigration, most urban cities provide little to no formal language assistance. In addition, many convicts simply aren’t afforded the time as they are required to see probation officers frequently as well as trying to actually provide for themselves.

As inmates are released from our correctional facility they are promptly thrust back into an environment that encourages their misconduct. Areas that have high incarceration rates hosts large ghettos that breed malicious intent. For instance, the Miami Dade prison population is the 8th largest in the country with its gang population being the 7th largest in America (Munzenrieder, Kyle.). Even though an inmate may have rehabilitated, crime affiliation follows and this individual may become associated with their criminal history. This can lead to gang members, drug dealers or other offenders preemptively striking in order to maintain criminal hierarchies. In many cases, previous inmates will regress into their criminal activities in order to have protection. Rather than continuing the rehabilitation process, former inmates are cornered into a fight or flight response without the ability to escape. Moreover, in many cases, those who have been previously incarcerated also have family and friends that take part in illegal activities. “I had to give up many of the boys I’ve been down with forever. I just knew that they were going to bring me back to a place I couldn’t be in.” Mark stated. Losing these connections can leave former inmates vulnerable and without the support system they’ve had for years. In addition to the retaliation from other offenders, released inmates have to worry about racial and criminal profiling. Due to over 60% of the prison population being minorities, most noticeably Blacks and Hispanics, a level of racial profiling is obvious (Hagler, Jamal). However, racially profiling released inmates leads to police officers checking criminal databases, in turn, increasing harassment. Being associated with a criminal record gives police an excuse to pursue individuals simply for having a record. In areas with heavy crime, law enforcement is more present and more likely to assume criminal records of the inhabitants. Moreover, when considering their low budgets, these heavily populated cities also lack the necessary resources to integrate former convicts. Coupled with the lack of employment, many of these offenders will take to criminal activities in order to maintain homes and child care.

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This is especially concerning as police are becoming increasingly “better equipped”. Image from cnn.com

In the case of economic endeavours and advancement opportunities, post-secondary education is on the brink of becoming a requirement. Statistics show that those who have a college degree are more than 14% likely to have a job that is career oriented vs a job to “simply get by”(pewsocialtrends.org). Having a college degree puts a former inmate at an advantage against the 66% of America that has no degree, increasing their chances of retaining a career (pewsocialtrends.org). Thus, without education, the majority of former inmates would never have the opportunity to advance. In addition, higher education also contributes to disparities in income between those have had their high school diploma and those who have a college degree. The median annual income difference between a high school graduate and a degree holder is $17,500( pewsocialtrends.org). When comparing this to the previous generations median annual income difference of $15,780, there is a gap of $1,720. This contributes to fact that education has not only grown more essential in order to maintain a career but also to remain above the poverty level in our current economy. When considering the likely chances of a former inmate having a lower income, education becomes a necessary tool to prevent recidivism and increase a former inmates chance of success.
As racial and economic divisions deepen, prison has become a place of punishment doubling as an income generator for private companies. The original purpose of reformation has been deformed into simply sheltering what society refuses to fix. Despite the overwhelming evidence of inefficiency, politicians, private companies and upper-class individuals believe that the correctional system provides opportunities for inmates that they would have never otherwise receive. Granted that many inmates are released gaining a high school diploma in the process, their costs from prisons such as probation and court fees, is likely to offset the advantage of a diploma. In addition, many supporters of our current correctional system emphasize the fact that prison shouldn’t be a reward but instead a consequence. However, this prompts the question of to what extent is prison a negative consequence? In many cases, inmates arrive in jail or prison for non-violent offences and yet when they are released, their crimes are usually more heinous and weigh more on society. In effect, society is punished for its failure to correctly reform the prisoner.

However, the most significant claim of those who support our correctional system is that society is no longer forced to deal with those who have deviated from our norms. Yet, this line of thinking results in a chain of animosity, poverty and increased segregation. As families are broken and children grow in poverty, our youth will see crime as an outlet for rebellion or simply a means of getting by. This becomes a vicious cycle, rarely broken and demonstrated mostly by the minorities in our prisons thus increasing stigmatisms associated with various races. In the end, our correctional system has been outdated for decades and currently is undermining efforts of humanitarians and those who seek to release others from poverty. By reforming the issues analysed in my essay, with a focus on education, our correctional system would begin to change for the better.
Despite including what would be most important in answering my question, I realised that there were several directions I could have taken in the meaning of function. My analysis focused more on economic success rather than mental growth which would also affect an individual’s ability to succeed in life. Understanding the extent of influence prison has on the psychological state on an inmate would allow me to determine if many of the results of prison were from fractured mental states or from reasons entailed in my essay. However, based on my analysis of data and my evaluation of interviews with former inmates, prison has a high negative association with inhibiting the success of those previously incarcerated.

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September 2017 Quote of the Month

“In the old days, protesters would be carried out on stretchers.” –Donald Trump

Political Correctness and Social Justice Warriors: Saints By Comparison

With so many opinions being expressed more than ever on the world wide stage, there comes vigilantes that gallantly defend the honor of those who are marginalised by society. In reality, they do little besides contributing to the reputation that liberals are too PC and with things like safe spaces on campuses, it becomes evident that these people are restricting speech and expression even if whatever is being expressed somehow somewhere could offend someone.

You all know that I am someone who likes to speak about issues that bother me and that’s what Outlet is for. It’s for the writers to speak about the world whether it be personal experiences or social injustice in general. However, I can’t help but also think that those who have to pick on every thing as being offensive also make it so that we can’t have discussions about sensitive topics. Ignoring such topics especially when they are at such a critical stage of development is not going to do anything. Taking offence is not such a terrible thing. Having hurt feelings is not a terrible thing especially when these hurt feelings are exchanged for progress and greater equity for all.

When taken to the extreme, this sort of hyper-awareness can result in situations similar to the video below:

 

So really, having extreme “correctness” does not cancel out bigotry, it is a form of bigotry in of itself.

Also, being offended for someone else also does nothing. A lot of the time, I see people who take offence because another demographic could potentially be offended. But most of the time, this other demographic (whatever it is) really does not care. I identify with a number of minority demographics and I often see people trying to defend against perceived attacks against Asians or women etc. etc. but unless what is said is clearly wrong and was meant to disenfranchise, there exists no need to take action.

The other point I want to make today is in the satisfaction one feels when condemning someone to racist or sexist or as being privileged. It makes one feel superior in morality or something in knowing that you have defended a “weaker” group. It feels nice to be able to say that they’re definitively wrong and I am right and that I am a better person than they are. This is a big motivator. I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of people are vigilantes because of this result of self-satisfaction. It makes one a hero. By comparing yourself to the worst of the worst, you are then a saint.

So be careful and think if what you are about to post is really necessary. I find myself guilty of this on a lot of occasions. Open discussions is the first step. Don’t push your interlocutor into a stereotype (ie uneducated, redneck etc) and expect them to treat you any differently (ie elitist, arrogant etc).

That’s all for this time. Like and follow if you want to see more of this content. Comment what you think and please consider making a contribution to the Outlet team by becoming a Patron (aka a Pluglet) for this site. Outlet is currently trying to recruit writers so contact us if you’re interested and we’ll get you set up.

I am Lieutenant and I’ll talk to you later.